The European Union Civil Protection Mechanism will send air assistance to fight a fire in central Evia that rages out of control and has led to the evacuation of four villages, the Civil Protection Secretary General said on Tuesday.
Breaking out in the early hours of the day at protected forestland, the fire covered parts of the island with dense smoke that was carried by the wind as far as Athens.
The coordinating body has set up a pool of firefighting airplanes provided by EU member-states when requested in disasters by fellow members, especially fires, known as “RescEU”. Greece requested eight firefighting planes, and so far airplanes have taken off from Croatia and Italy. Other EU members are expected to respond also.
Of the four villages and a monastery whose residents were evacuated, the fire has burned homes in Makrymalli. Its residents along with those of Kondodespoti, Stavros and Platania have been evacuated to Psahna.
The fire broke out at 03.16 on Tuesday in the Agrilitsa region, where there is a dense virgin pine forest designated protected area for wild species under the Natura network. Winds with velocities of over 8 on the Beaufort scale have prevented firefighters from controlling the fire even partially.
Firefighters include 227 members with 75 fire engines, 7 units on foot, and 6 aircraft and 6 helicopters, joined by a coordinating ground unit. In addition, forces include two units of the army, volunteers, eight machines and ten water-dispensing vehicles.
Interior Minister Takis Theodorikakos who arrived at Psahna met with newly elected Central Greece regional director Fanis Spanos, town mayor Giorgos Psathas, Citizen Protection Secretary General Nikos Hardalias and the Fire Brigade to assess the situation, while the central section of Evia that includes the four villages has been declared under national emergency.
Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis and Fire Brigade chief Vassilis Mattheopoulos are at the Fire Brigade’s coordination center in Halandri, where he welcomed Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Police are also informing villages of developments and providing support, while army, regional government and Larco machinery and water trucks will create a safe zone before Psahna, as the blaze is heading south and southwest.
In a tweet, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Help and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, “We are mobilizing the rescEU assets to respond to Greece activation of the European Civil Protection Mechanism. The EU stands by Greece at this difficult time.”
In an earlier message on Twitter, Stylianides said he was in constant touch with Greek authorities over fires in Evia and elsewhere and has already spoken with Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis and Secretary General Nikos Hardalias.